Don’t let their daunting name intimidate you, Spirits and the Melchizedek Children is one Atlanta band that you don’t want to miss out on. The group began as a independent acoustic project of front man Jason Elliot, but the four-piece outfit has grown into so much more! Recently, AMG got a chance to chat with Jason Elliot about the band’s origins, their latest album and their upcoming tour. Spirits and the Melchizedek Children kick off their fall tour at The Drunken Unicorn with Midnight Masses on August 27th. Tickets are going fast, so get yours before they’re gone!
AMG: So your band name is quite a mouthful. Where did the name come from?
Jason Elliot: Years ago I definitely was doing some self-discovery and stumbled in class onto the word Melchizedek. In all that I’ve studied and looked at it’s repeated time and time again over the ages and almost representing a person or a man of mystery and that was just fascinating to me. I wanted to evoke that into the name having our music offer that mystery. So Spirits of the Melchizedek Children is kind of a phrase where, you know we’re all children, we’re all spirits. And it is—it is a mouthful and I think it definitely lets people ask questions. Time and time again on the road, we’re constantly having to correct people on how to say it. That’s a little taxing, especially over the years doing that, we’re holding strong and obviously keeping it.
AMG: Your biography states that your band began as your solo acoustic project. At what point did you realize that you guys as a group had something more than just an independent project?
JE: As stated in the bio you know it really was kind of conceived over a dying campfire as it says. It was usually like a 4, 5AM type of thing and it got to the point where it was like “man I’ve got all these sounds in my head and I need to find a band.” Over the years we’ve definitely gone through some incarnations of spirits but it has evolved into something quite special. It was probably about a year of recording solo stuff, just bedroom stuff and finally finding Chris Case and Joe McNeal. Joe McNeal is still in the band; he plays bass but Chris Case just recently left due to, just like an overworked schedule. But he and Joe helped me conceive the ideas behind these sounds that I was hearing. And over the years, with different incarnations of members I’ve been very choosey in whom to bring on and can communicate with what I want to hear and essentially what they want to hear. I thrive off of whom I am working with. The last couple of years with us touring relentlessly, it’s just been a treat playing with these guys and having them actually help me write things, and to really just communicate through our music. We all have the same idea of what we want so it really works.
AMG: If you could describe your music for me in one word, what would that word be and why?
JE: I guess Transcendent. We try to move you, especially live. Time and time again I hear people say they love the record. It’s great to kind of lose themselves in it and do various projects if that be as mundane as driving or whatever. But yeah, I would say Transcendent or moving.
AMG: What do you want people to take away from your music?
JE: A strong component of having timeless pieces of art, in the day and age of instant gratification that being social media or the age of the single is back. Sure you’re moved by this music but years from now is it still going to move you the same as it did when you first heard it. I would essentially say bring a timeless element to music.
AMG: So Benjamin Price. He’s a renowned producer and he has worked with a bunch of notable artists, including Outkast. What was it like recording your album So Happy it’s Sad with him?
JE: It was absolutely wonderful. You know our first record was recorded with Ed Rald and he was a great engineer and he gave us what we wanted. But discovering Ben and meeting him…doing the same as communicating what I wanted to hear or convey through our recordings was very similar to how I work with the rest of the band. Essentially him being our producer, he got it. I didn’t have to explain much and really took what he had to say seriously and just working with him. His background is quite colorful as far different genres are concerned but essentially he is a psych rocker so having him involved with our record So Happy it’s Sad was just awesome. He’s very patient but quick to put the breaks on things, but also very understanding and he’s very accommodating. His studio is absolutely gorgeous.
AMG: What would you say was your favorite song to record off the latest album?
JE: I really had fun with Copper Feather. It’s an instrumental track; it’s more kind of ambient track. Primarily working with Ben on that. We had just finished recording, I believe it was Lullaby Chore, and everyone went upstairs to preview the track and I stayed down in the control room and just started noodling and definitely had an idea before hand, I want to convey some sort of track that will definitely resemble falling asleep and dreaming and then waking up.” Ben not knowing this kept recording and what now is Copper Feather. We went back and edited and did overdubs and just really made it an essential part of the record. It’s very, very different within the record but it almost serves as an interlude of sorts. Other than that I really had a good time recording throughout the record the tracks by Mel Parsons at Royal Thunders. She offered so much by way of back up vocals and the string section that Ryan Gregory and Matt Gerard offered throughout the record. It was really fun. It was fun bringing in other musicians to offer their talent.
AMG: What do you love most about the Atlanta music scene?
JE: I love how it’s supportive of one another and also, anything goes. And it is hard these days to break a band being that everything is so readily available. In hindsight of all that, offering something new and different is easy to do in Atlanta; that being whatever genre you decide to do. I think there is a little bit of everything in Atlanta. Constantly people out of town are asking me how the Atlanta music scene and instantly all four of us are…like it’s awesome. A lot of everything going on. I am proud of having Spirits as my band and giving something new and refreshing. I feel like there is no one else out there in Atlanta doing what we’re doing, like the cryptic witchy shoe-gaze thing that we have going on. I like it. There is a lot of opportunity here.
AMG: Got any shout outs or anything?
JE: We’re touring. We hit the road since releasing the record back in March and we’re going out again at the end of this month and touring half of the country in the first part of October.